I’ve begun working through A Time to Embrace: Same-Gender Relationships in Religion, Law, and Politics by William Johnson this weekend so I thought I’d drop a few initial thoughts.
One hotly debated question is what percentage of the population would describe themselves as “gay.” Depending on the study this number has fluctuated wildly so Johnson tries to bring some clarity to the issue by noting the difference between identity, behavior, and desire. If your poll asks if people would identify themselves as gay or lesbian then the numbers are lower than if you ask if they’ve engaged in same gender sexual activity in the last twelve months. Johnson writes,
“In summary, when it comes to arguing numbers, there are misleading statements made on both sides of the debate. On the one hand, the idea that 10 percent of the population is “gay” is an urban legend: we now know that not that many people in the population at large are willing to identify themselves as gay or lesbian. On the other hand, the 10 percent figure is not completely off base: it is a fact that almost 10 percent of the population self-identify as something other than heterosexual; and it is also a fact that over 10 percent of the population (8.6 percent of men, 13.6 percent of women) claim some degree of sexual attraction to members of the same sex. And it is a fact that well over 8 percent of the population (6 percent of men, 11.2 of women) have at some time engaged in same-gender sexual behavior.”
What’s at stake in all of these numbers is that opponents of same gender relationships want to paint this as a wildly aberrant phenomena that few, if any people, really experience. The rarer it is the more we can simply write it off to a few folks expressing their rebellion against God. Of course, it’s another thing entirely when 10% of the people sitting in the pews would admit to having some level of attraction to members of the same sex.